Review: Playing at Love by Ophelia London

 

 

Title: Playing at Love

Author:  Ophelia London

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Show choir teacher Tess Johansson loves three things: music, her job, and sharing that passion with her students. But when a school budget crisis forces funding to be pulled from either the sports or music programs, she finds herself going head to head with Jack, the gorgeous new football coach who broke her heart fifteen years ago.

Jack Marshall wants two things: to be closer to his young daughter and to make his mark as a football coach. Taking the new job, with the promise that he’d have time to build a solid team, gave him both. But now he must win the season with a group of boys who aren’t anywhere near ready or he’ll lose everything he’s worked so hard for. Being pitted against Tess, the summer love he never forgot, is like being fourth and long with only seconds on the clock.

On opposing sides of a fierce battle and with everything at stake, Tess and Jack find themselves torn between doing what it takes to win and doing what it takes to be together.


Review:

When I saw this new Bliss title, I jumped at the chance to read it.  It has my favorite trope – you guessed it – second chances at love.  I just can’t resist that one, so as I settled into my seat for the flight back from OKC, I started gobbling up this book.  It is a sweet romance, with rapid pacing and fun characters. 

Tess loves her job as the show choir teacher at Franklin High.  She loves mentoring her students and pushing them to be the best they can be.  When her job is threatened due to budget cuts, she is on the defensive.  The only way to save her show choir is to take first place at Regionals, and even then, she has to hope that the new football coach, Jack, meets with failure.  If Jack can’t win 4 out of 6 games with the beleaguered football team, his new position will be going down the toilet.  Their rivalry is fueled by Jack’s betrayal when they were teenagers.  As the entire town starts to choose sides, Jack and Tess must decide what’s most important – winning or  falling in love.

I liked Tess, and felt that I got to know her and what made her tick.  She’s appalled to face a ghost from her past, and infuriated when Jack’s football team threatens the survival of her show choir program.  She loves her job, and she needs a paycheck to help keep her parents’ home out of foreclosure.  When Jack comes waltzing back into her life after breaking her heart all those years ago, Tess doesn’t want to have anything to do with him.  She still hasn’t gotten over his betrayal.  She can’t trust men, and something always drives her away from a serious, steady relationship. 

Jack has always regretted what he did that summer, all those years ago.  Now he has a chance to make up for it, but Tess won’t give him the time of day.  He’s beyond dismayed to learn that his new dream job may go up in smoke, and he can’t believe that his team has to compete with the show choir for survival.  The added conflict to their relationship kept me engaged in the story.  Since one of the programs has to go, I kept wondering how either protagonist would accept defeat.  As the competition began to divide the school, and eventually, the community, both Jack and Tess began to see the damage that was being done as pranks between supporters began to get out of hand.  I enjoyed reading along as they tried to come up with a mutually agreeable solution to the mess they found themselves in.  As their October deadline approached, they each began to question what was really important in their lives.  As they worked through this dilemma, it seemed that their relationship would take one step forward and two back, but I never felt that the pacing suffered, regardless of all of the new road bumps they encountered.

Playing at Love keeps a flirty tone throughout. I didn’t feel that Tess and Jack’s past was explored enough, but the story kept me entertained through a mechanical delay, a late flight crew, and a layover at DFW.  My one nitpick – I felt that it lacked depth, and the ending was wrapped up too quickly, and too conveniently.  Still, there is a good time to be had by all, and I believe that Jack and Tess won’t squander their second chance at a happy ever after.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Shot! One Sweet Ride by Jaci Burton

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

Jaci Burton has some of the yummiest romance covers ever! I love seeing each new addition to the Play-by-Play series.  I really need to make the time to start reading these books!  Are you reading them? Which cover is your favorite?  Do you like the cover for One Sweet Ride?

In stores June 2013.

    

Race car driver Gray Preston enjoys fast cars and an uncomplicated life, until political aide Evelyn Hill enters the picture and complicates the hell out of it with a request that he help out his estranged father’s political campaign. Racing and politics don’t mix, but Gray and Evelyn’s sexual attraction sizzles like asphalt in August.

A Look Inside Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball

 

 

Title: Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball

Publisher: Sports Illustrated

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Get everything you ever wanted to know about America’s pastime in FULL COUNT: TOP 10 LISTS OF EVERYTHING IN BASEBALL . Presented in the format of Top 10 lists, this book is a comprehensive yet fun look at the greatest aspects of the game. From the top World Series moments to the most colorful characters, SI Kids ranks a variety of topics from the baseball diamond. Readers are guaranteed to love the big, exciting action photos from the Sports Illustrated collection and the insider knowledge of SI Kids. Filled with trivia and information, this dynamic book will be the definitive kids book on baseball.
Top 10 Rankings include:

Hardest throwers
Slickest infielders
Powerful sluggers
Loveable losers
Fastest base stealers
Best ballparks


The Look Inside:

As with all of the Sports Illustrated Kids books, Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball is beautifully presented.  The book is huge, featuring eye-popping photographs, both in color and black and white,  of the best in baseball.   I love these Top 10 books, and  the material had me flipping eagerly through the pages.  While I was a huge baseball fan in my teens, I have flipped over to football and hockey, preferring a faster, harder hitting game.  There was still plenty to hold my attention here, including Top 10 Ugly Uniforms (and yes, they are hideous! Most of the fugly are from the 70s, which doesn’t surprise me, but gaak! I can’t believe anyone thought these uniforms looked COOL!), Top 10 Mascots, and Top 10 Nicknames.  There are lots of Tigers mentioned, too, though Ernie Harwell only ranked second on the Top 10 Announcers list.  What?!  He was baseball in Detroit, and listening to games will never be the same without him.

Now, for those baseball fans out there, don’t be alarmed – there are plenty of lists with compelling baseball moments.  If Top 10 Facial Hair doesn’t interest you, I’m such that Top 10 Future Hall of Famers, Top 10 Scandals, and Top 10 Legendary Home Runs will get your blood pumping.  It was fun Googling footage of some of the most memorable moments in baseball, but without this book, I never would have thought to do it!  Hank Aaron’s 715th home run?  it’s on YouTube.  Kirk Gibson’s game winning homer in 1988?  Read about it in the book, then go watch it for yourself. 

If you have a young baseball fan at home, Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball will keep them entertained with the action-packed shots and fun trivia.  With the holidays fast approaching, this will make a fun gift for the baseball fan in your life.

Grade:  Fun!

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Shot! Mac’s Angels: Midnight Fantasy by Sandra Chastain

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

This cover? Yum.  I missed this book the first time around, so I’m looking forward to reading the digital release in February 2013.

 
 
 

From celebrated author Sandra Chastain comes the sensual tale of a compassionate nurse who is determined to heal her patient . . . and mend his shattered heart.

After a series of football injuries leave him broken in both body and spirit, former star quarterback Joe Armstrong decides that his life is over. Wanting nothing more than to sit alone with a strong drink, Joe is less than pleased when he receives an unexpected visit from nurse Annabelle Calloway. Finding the golden-haired angel impossible to ignore, Joe reluctantly lets Annabelle into his home.
Although she’s seen her fair share of tough cases, Annabelle isn’t sure how to reach the troubled Joe. But having almost succumbed to depression herself, Annabelle feels an instant connection to her charge. A connection that becomes undeniable. Enveloped by passion and filled with longing, Annabelle will stop at nothing to give Joe a reason to live—and a reason to love.

Review: Seducing Cinderella by Gina L Maxwell

 

Title: Seducing Cinderella

Author: Gina L Maxwell

Publisher:  Entangled Publishing

Imprint: Brazen

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mixed martial arts fighter Reid Andrews’s chance to reclaim his title as light heavyweight champ is shattered when he’s injured only months before the rematch. To make sure he’s healed in time, his trainer sends him to recuperate under a professional’s care—Reid’s best friend’s little sister, all grown up. Disorganized and bookish Lucie Miller needs some professional help of her own. She’d do anything to catch the eye of a doctor she’s crushed on for years, so when Reid offers seduction lessons in exchange for 24/7 conditioning for the biggest fight of his career, Lucie jumps at the chance. Soon Reid finds himself in the fight of his life…winning Lucie’s heart before she gives it to someone else.

Review:

I admit the reason I wanted to read Seducing Cinderella is because of the hunky, tattooed guy on the cover.  I like tats.  More specifically, I like his tats.  Add the ink to one of my favorite romance tropes, and “Hello, book, yes, I’d like to get to know you better!”

Seducing Cinderella is the first book that I have read under Entangled Publishing’s new Brazen imprint.  I will compare this to a Harlequin Blaze, which is an imprint that I read infrequently, and again, it is usually the cover that tempts to me scoop one up.  This is hard, admitting that I am such a shallow reader! Still, with the torrential glut of new releases every week, something needs to catch my eye, and I don’t have time to read all of the plot descriptions, so I guess cover illustration it is!  I certainly don’t pick these up based on the title, some of which are so ridiculous I’m glad that I do have several eReaders!

Back to this book – if this is an indication of the Brazen imprint, I would read more, with no hesitation.  This title did have a few irritating moments, but it is a fun, fast, sexy read.  I liked the characters, especially Reid.  While I was expecting a tougher depiction of his MMA manliness, he is a softie on the inside, and the alpha-idiot only reared its ugly head near the end, for which I am grateful.  I like tender guys, who can make you feel like a million bucks with just a smile and few kind words.  I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in a battle of wills with my guy, which so many category romance heroines seem to be in for.  That just doesn’t seem like fun, and I don’t care how rich the guy is.   If he can’t set aside his own ego for more than a few pages, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be stuck with him for the rest of my life!

Physical therapist Lucie Miller is having a really bad day.  She has been in love with a surgeon she works with closely, and when she thinks he’s about to finally catch a clue and ask her out, he asks for her best friend’s number instead.  Instead of letting him know how she feels, she coughs up the number, waits for him to leave, and bursts into tears in her messy office.  When her new patient arrives early for his therapy session, she’s shocked to discover that it’s her brother’s best friend, Reid, incognito.  Oh, noes!  He can’t help but see her puffy, tear-stained face, and after discovering her troubles, he has a proposition for her – if she dedicates the next few weeks to his rehabilitation so he’s ready to win his title back, he’ll help her win over the clueless doc.  Reluctantly, Lucie agrees, and before she knows what’s happened, sexy Reid and his rippling muscles have moved into her apartment.

I thought the pacing was spot on.  This is a whirlwind romance, and it reads like one, with all of the breathless anticipation and jittery nerves to crank up the impossible to ignore attraction that rages between Reid and Lucie.  I enjoyed their banter, but I did not enjoy the make-over Reid insisted that Lucie receive.  Her clothes are all wrong, her make-up barely there, and she can’t even make a positive impression when she enters a room.  Reid’s words, not mine. I so do despise these miraculous make-overs, because of course Lucie would not have the faintest clue how to attract a guy without Reid’s coaching.  This just made Lucie seem dumb and naïve, but we know that she’s not.  She is a successful therapist, she is intelligent, and she was married previously.  She didn’t just crawl out of a hole with no clue about what boys and girls do together, or how to get one to give you a second glance.  This particular plot device drives me nuts.

Reid’s behavior near the end irritated me, too, because of his lack of faith in Lucie.  She deserved more credit than he gave her, and I was just so disappointed with him.  If stupidity was contagious, he had just caught it.  Probably from his dad, which was a plot thread that seems unconvincing and tacked on at the end.  It’s just not possible to fix decades of indifference in two short chatting sessions, but I guess Reid needed his happy ever after with his disapproving and demanding father, too.  These quibbles aside, I found Seducing Cinderella a fun popcorn read.  Take it to the beach the next time you go!

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Gina L Maxwell, Author of Seducing Cinderella and Giveaway!

 

Be sure to check out the tour page for Entangled Publishing’s Seducing Cinderella Blog Tour!

Gina  Maxwell is the author of Seducing Cinderella, a red-hot romance from Entangled Publisher’s new Brazen imprint.  Gina stopped by the virtual offices for a chat, and she brought along a digital copy of her book for one of you to win!

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Gina L Maxwell] Wife & mother. Addicted to romance books, Keurig coffee, dark chocolate, & writing about sexy alpha heroes & Super Power is Sonic Perkiness!

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Gina L Maxwell] I always start my stories with my characters, more specifically my hero. Once I have him figured out, I try to think of the kind of heroine he needs and who will bring him to his knees when he’s not looking. THEN I try to figure out the basic gist of the story. I don’t put too much of it together because I’m a pantser and like finding out the story’s details as I write.

With Seducing Cinderella, I found a picture of male model Parker Hurley that totally captivated me. He’s staring at the camera all intense with nothing on but a pair of shorts and black wraps on his hands. I’m also a huge UFC (Ultimate Fighting Challenge) and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fan, so the fighter theme jumped out at me immediately. It was then I knew I wanted to write a story about a UFC fighter and his struggle to overcome an injury and reclaim his title, among other things. So I gave him Lucie, a physical therapist who needed some help of her own that he’d be able to give her. Then I sat back and let them do their thing.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Reid?

[Gina L Maxwell] Charming, sexy, protective

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Lucie would never have in her bedroom?


[Gina L Maxwell] An exercise machine (she has a dedicated room/office for that), uncluttered surfaces (why would her personal space be any different than her work space?), or designer anything (she prefers things simple and practical).

[Manga Maniac Café] If Lucie had a theme song, what would it be?

[Gina L Maxwell] Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars. At least, that’s what I think Reid would pick for her.

[Manga Maniac Café] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Gina L Maxwell] Amber Lin’s Giving It Up. Her writing was spectacular and the story so incredibly compelling. I can honestly say it’s not anything that I would normally read, but I’m so glad I did! The book totally blew me away! Everyone should check it out, regardless if it’s their normal reading fare or not.

[Manga Maniac Café] How can readers connect with you?

[Gina L Maxwell] Readers can join my one-of-a-kind romance mafia, called the Maxwell Mob, on my website at www.ginalmaxwell.com. By signing up for that, they’ll receive special announcements, exclusive excerpts, and Maxwell Mob swag.

I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, & Pinterest, and I love to hear from readers, so don’t be shy!

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

GIVEAWAY TIME!!!

Ready for your chance to win a digital copy of Seducing Cinderella?  Just fill out the widget below.  Earn extra entries for following.  Open Internationally!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Didn’t win? You can purchase a copy of Seducing Cinderella from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below

 

He’ll teach her the art of seduction…for a price.

Mixed martial arts fighter Reid Andrews’s chance to reclaim his title as light heavyweight champ is shattered when he’s injured only months before the rematch. To make sure he’s healed in time, his trainer sends him to recuperate under a professional’s care—Reid’s best friend’s little sister, all grown up.

Disorganized and bookish Lucie Miller needs some professional help of her own. She’d do anything to catch the eye of a doctor she’s crushed on for years, so when Reid offers seduction lessons in exchange for 24/7 conditioning for the biggest fight of his career, Lucie jumps at the chance.

Soon Reid finds himself in the fight of his life…winning Lucie’s heart before she gives it to someone else.

Title: Seducing Cinderella

Author: Gina L. Maxwell

Genre: Category – Contemporary

Length: 277 pages

ISBN: 978-1-62266-949-3

Release Date: July 2012

Imprint: Brazen

Author Information

Growing up in small town Fort Atkinson, WI, Gina L. Maxwell, formerly Bisbee, could often be found onstage in the latest theatrical production, performing with her high school show choir, or holding office in her local FFA chapter. She dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps in the entertainment business, of enabling her audience to forget about life for a few hours as they enjoyed the stories she told through her love of singing, dancing, and acting. It wasn’t until her sophomore year in college when she realized she had no acting talent to speak of and her dream needed some adjusting. Another ten years would pass before she discovered a different means to accomplishing the same dream.

Within those ten years Gina married her high school sweetheart, had two beautiful children, and moved more times than she cared to count. In 2009 she started writing as a hobby while her kids were in school, and it quickly became an obsession she couldn’t stop, and then a dream to publish stories of love and passion for romance addicts just like her.

Three years later, her dream came true when she signed with Entangled Publishing for a total of seven books in two of their imprints.

Her Fighting for Love series with MMA heroes debuted July 20th, 2012 for the digital Brazen imprint with the first book, Seducing Cinderella, and reached #9 on Barnes & Noble’s best seller list in just seven days.

The first book in her paranormal romance trilogy, Desires of the Soul, is set to release both digitally and in mass trade paperback in Summer 2013 for the Entangled Select imprint.

When she’s not writing or wrangling plot bunnies, Gina keeps busy with her wonderful family and their ever-growing extra-curricular schedules. Thanks to their immense patience and support, she’s able to do The Thing She Was Meant To Do and live her dream of bringing a little romantic fantasy to the world, even if only in the pages of a good book.

Author Website: http://ginalmaxwell.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Gina_L_Maxwell

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6446604.Gina_L_Maxwell

Interview with Lisa Luedeke, Author of Smashed

Lisa Luedeke is the author of Smashed, which releases today from Margaret K. McElderry Books.  Lisa stopped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and chat about her new book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Lisa Luedeke] Yoga- loving

Mama-doting

Can’t get her face out of a book;

Loves her quiet, her woods, her lake,

Her family & friends,

Just give her that writing time

And all will be fine.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Smashed?

[Lisa Luedeke] Sure. It’s really a story about trying to fill a hole in your life, in your emotional life, and making the wrong choices as you try to do that. Katie’s dad, an alcoholic, abandoned her family when she was twelve, and her mother is never around. She’s basically on her own, with the help of a couple of good friends, and a mentor in her high school field hockey coach, but it’s not enough. After she gets involved with bad-boy Alec, Katie tries to get herself back on track, but one night she makes a mistake she can’t take back, and when lies follow to cover it up, things get out of control.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Lisa Luedeke] When I was seventeen, I was in a terrifying car accident. My best friend and I were asked by a teacher to go on a school errand. We were in my friend’s car and he was driving. It was a cold, wet, November day, and a slushy snow was building up on windy back road in Maine. My friend was a careful driver; we were only going 30 miles an hour—I remember looking at the speedometer. But as we were going around a corner, the slush took hold of the wheels of the car and pulled us into the other lane, just as a car was coming toward us. My friend tried to gain control of the car, to get us back on our side of the road, and we started to turn in the right direction. The last thing I remember was thinking we were going to miss that car by an inch…When I came to, there was blood splattered down the front of my sweater and I thought my friend might be dead.

We were both fine, but that moment wouldn’t leave me for many years. Writing about a difficult time can be cathartic, but I didn’t want to write about that accident. I have no interest in writing memoir. And that particular incident didn’t have the characteristics of a compelling story—it was simply bad luck, bad timing, bad weather.

So I began to do what-ifs…What if an accident was someone’s fault? What if the driver was drunk? And what if the passenger, who was hurt, was not a friend, but someone the driver didn’t even like? Someone she was trying to get away from? As I asked these questions, a situation emerged that interested me, and that’s what I need—a situation that is complex enough to keep me interested as a writer. Then I ask myself, who would find themselves in this particular situation? For me, characters emerge from conflict.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Katie?

[Lisa Luedeke] Self-reliant

Lonely

Tough

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Alec would never have in his pocket?

[Lisa Luedeke] A love note

Bubble gum

A coupon

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Katie’s single most prized possession?

[Lisa Luedeke] Her field hockey stick

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Lisa Luedeke] First, the natural world. I think and write best while I’m hiking or walking in the countryside near my home. When I’m out there, I problem solve my current story. Mull over whatever it is that I’m struggling with. Everything begins to get unstuck, to flow, and then a scene will come to me. If I like it, I rehearse it again and again in my mind, and when I get home I’m ready to write.

Robert Cormier & S.E Hinton’s YA books had a great influence on me, particularly The Chocolate War and The Outsiders. I wanted to write books that had the heart of Hinton’s books and the edge of Cormier’s. Cormier’s gone now, but he’s still one of the best writers in the YA field. Interestingly, neither of them wrote about girls (Cormier did in one book, but said he found it very difficult.) I knew I wanted to honestly portray girls’ lives in the pages of my books.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Lisa Luedeke] Ideally, a long walk to get a scene flowing—then a big mug of dark coffee and a quiet space. But I’m learning to write on airplanes!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Lisa Luedeke] Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains. It’s an absolutely amazing historical novel about a slave girl from Rhode Island who’s sold to a family in New York City during the American Revolution. I loved the character with my whole heart, and the narrative is gripping—but I also learned a great deal about the revolution and slavery during that time period.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Lisa Luedeke] From my earliest memories, I loved to read. Everything. The Witch Who Wasn’t was an early favorite, though I can’t find it now; I think it’s out-of-print. Go Ask Alice was the book that turned me on to YA literature when I was ten.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Lisa Luedeke] Ashtanga yoga, hiking, skiing, swimming, reading, hanging out with friends & family.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Lisa Luedeke] Lisaluedeke.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Luedeke/224769940928276

lisa.lue@hotmail.com

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Smashed from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital

Cover Shot! Thrown by a Curve by Jaci Burton

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I love the covers for Jaci Burton’s Play by Play novels.  There is just something about a lean, sweaty athlete that demands a second (and third) glance. 

 

Sports medicine specialist Alicia Riley has the job of her dreams, until she’s assigned to star pitcher Garrett Scott. Undergoing shoulder rehab, it’s make it or break it time for Garrett, and he needs to focus to get back on the mound in time for opening day. But close proximity and combustible chemistry is a dangerous combination, and both Alicia and Garrett have a lot to lose if this doesn’t work.

In stores March 2013

 

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